Thursday, February 17, 2005


We're getting our local gardening/environmental club off the ground here. So far it's a dozen kids and their parents, mostly from homeschooling families. Age-range is 6 to 12 with a couple of younger siblings hanging on the fringes. GRUBS stands for "Garden Rangers United in Bio-Sustainability". It's mostly just a play on SLUGS, which is the adult-oriented volunteer group which maintains the nearby community reflection garden. Their acronym comes from "Slocan Lake Garden Society".

I had minimal expectations for my own kids' enthusiasm. They tend to be rather low-key and resistant to anything that's organized by me; they may go along with it -- they may even enjoy it -- but they will keep up a veneer of annoyance or begrudgingness.

So I was pleasantly surprised to have them develop some real enthusiasm over the community garden site and the planning input they've been asked for. Our meeting last weekend started out with a bookbinding session, making simple nature journals. This was probably an ill-conceived task for a group where a lot of the kids were under 10 and needed a lot of direction. We managed okay, but it was a little chaotic and protracted. The results were fine though and the kids all ended up with a journal.

After we finished that, we headed out to the future garden site. Although it's technically still the dead of winter here it's been uncharacteristically warm for the last month and the site on the lakefront was clear of snow. Not only that but the sun came out and warmed everything. It was tantalizingly spring-like, the perfect weather for a first look-see at the site that belongs to the GRUBS as soon as we break sod.

The kids wandered around with pencils and maps of the site, collaborating spontaneously in small groups on design and organizational ideas. They chatted and paced out dimensions, they investigated the woods and the lakefront. They found a stick with wonderful clear marks of beaver activity and Noah deciphered the "nature story" ... the stick had been this way up, the beaver had gnawed here first until the sapling had fallen and cracked here, then the beaver had removed the side branches and taken the stick to his den area where he'd eaten the tender bark off. Figuring out "nature stories" is a tradition when we go for a walk as a family: any time someone sees evidence of animal activity we try to decipher who was there, doing what, in what order and why. The beaver stick was a great serendipitous GRUBS discovery.

Anyway my kids worked studiously away in their nature journals when we got home from the GRUBS meeting. Noah wrote down the names of some dye plants he wants to use. Erin recounted the details of the meeting. Sophie wrote down a description of the weather. Erin refined and edited and re-copied the blueprint of her collaborative garden plans.

I have very high hopes for this club. I had really expected to have to win my kids over gradually though. It was nice to see the excitement there already. Our next meeting is in 2 weeks.

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